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3 lessons to remember when developing a product

Observe what your consumer is not saying
By Carlo P. Mallo |

Listening to your customers is one of the most important things in developing or creating a product. While listening to what they say is notable, the most valuable inputs are often those that are not said, or at least expressed by the consumer.

James Lafferty, chief executive officer of Coca-Cola West Africa, said during the Digital Solutions Cooperative Asia (DSCOOP Asia) 2011 in Singapore that the secret to developing a product is in listening to what your customer is saying and not saying.

Lafferty, who used to work for a multinational brand in the Philippines, said that one product that was conceptualized in the country was the anti-mosquito characteristic of a fabric conditioner. “It was an unstated need of the consumer, but we all knew that it was something that they needed. And in the case of the Philippines, it was needed badly,” said Lafferty.

The product, after being tested in the Philippines, will be rolled out by the multinational brand to other parts of Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America where mosquito-spread diseases like dengue and malaria are of primary concern.

Developing an anti-mosquito fabric conditioner may seem too big for an ordinary entrepreneur, but understanding the process of how it was developed will help you develop or create the product that can be your ticket to business success.

Just like a genie, developing or creating a product can be done in three wishes:

1. First Wish: the obvious need
The first wish is the obvious need of your customer. If you are selling detergent, the obvious need is a cleaning agent. The same goes with other products and brands in the market. Always deliver, and deliver well, on the primary purpose of your product.

2. Second Wish: the stated need
The second wish is the stated need of your customer in addition to the obvious need. Going with the detergent example, aside from cleaning agent, your consumer also requires that their detergent also result in good smelling clothes.

3. Third Wish: the unstated need
Unknown to the consumer is their third wish. This is where the competition among products gets exciting. A few years back, a relatively unknown detergent company entered the highly brand conscious Philippine market with a detergent that has a cleaning agent, smells good, and has bacteria killing properties. While there was no direct demand from the consumers for a bacteria killing detergent, the response was overwhelming that most detergents in the country today have variant that offers bacteria killing action.


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